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U.S. Air Force personnel face deadline for COVID-19 vaccine

By Rich Klein
U.S. Air Force personnel face deadline for COVID-19 vaccine
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said in an August memo announcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to military commanders, "To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force." File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Air Force personnel face a Tuesday deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, Surgeon General of the Air Force and Space Force, likened the vaccine to a helmet or body armor in a video tweeted Tuesday.

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"I cannot stress enough how important it is for our entire military and their families to become vaccinated," Miller said.

Stars and Stripes reported Monday that the Air Force has removed 40 recruits and trainees from service over their refusal to get vaccinated.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in an August memo announcing the mandate to military commanders, "To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force."

Each branch of the military has its own deadline for compliance with the vaccine mandate, but all must be in compliance by the end of the year.

Department of Defense press secretary John F. Kirby said Monday that Austin wants military leaders to execute the mandate with compassion.

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"I know he made this clear to them, that he knows as a former commander himself, that leaders have a range of tools available to them to help troops make the right decisions for themselves, for the units, for the families, short of using the Uniform Code of Military Justice, therefore, short of punitive measures."

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Kirby said that about 97 percent of the total military force has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes 99 percent of sailors, 97 percent of airmen, and 93 percent of Marines.

"So just in terms of first dosage, there's been a lot more progress, and we continue to see the men and women of the force doing the right thing -- which is getting vaccinated," he said.

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